Man redirects traffic using Google Maps ‘hack’

Handcart full of phones could send cars on other routes

Andrew Griffin
Monday 03 February 2020 16:50 GMT

A man tricked Google Maps and potentially rerouted cars with a simple trick.

By loading 99 smartphones into a handcart, he says that he was able to create a "virtual traffic jam" that would send cars elsewhere.

Google Maps includes a feature that can see when people are stuck in traffic jams, or facing other problems. It does so by watching the speed that phones are moving at – and if a number of them appear to have slowed down, the service can guess that there may have been an accident or traffic jam.

But artist Simon Wickert from Berlin says that he was able to place a large number of phones into a handcart and pull it slowly along a road. That meant the maps registered a problem on the street, turning it red and leading cars to avoid it.

"99 smartphones are transported in a handcart to generate virtual traffic jam in Google Maps," Mr Weckert wrote on Twitter. "Through this activity, it is possible to turn a green street red which has an impact in the physical world by navigating cars on another route!"

Mr Weckert posted a video of the experiment, which showed him travelling through Berlin with his handcart and the streets lighting up with the virtual traffic jam as he went.

There is no way to know for sure that Weckert successfully carried out the hack, or to know definitively that it would work. But Google said it appreciated the hack and that it could inform future changes to the service.

"Whether via car or cart or camel, we love seeing creative uses of Google Maps as it helps us make maps work better over time," a spokesperson said.

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